Disney avoiding originality

(Graphic by Steph Truong)

In 2009, the Walt Disney Company set a precedent amongst the industry by purchasing Marvel Studios. Not even three years later and they have already out-shocked that investment by securing possession of the most profitable movie franchise of all time; LucasArts, the birthplace of Star Wars.

This move, decried by some, but lauded by most, makes this the third largest-property deal that the “Mouse House” has made in less than seven years.

The first was in 2006 when they bought their affiliate, Pixar. It could even be argued that a fourth major franchise was acquired a year ago, when Disney put in motion plans to build an Avatar themed land at their Animal Kingdom resort in Orlando, Florida.

These deals are obviously financial strongholds for Disney. They now have characters such as Buzz Lightyear, Darth Vader, Indiana Jones and Tony Stark under their watch, not to mention the creative minds of John Lasseter, Kevin Feige and George Lucas as executives and consultants. They even had the mind of the late Steve Jobs in their employ.

But, while you can’t ignore the studio’s obvious desire to acquire potential creative enterprises, you still have to ask: what about their own, original ideas? Where did those run off to?

It seems that in recent years, Disney has foregone creating their own unique movies and merchandise in favour of acquiring already established material to sell off as their own. And while that is all fine and good from a financial standpoint, it really puts a damper on the studios’ once proud array of successful properties.

Their last successful attempt to push something developed in house was the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003, which as we all know, was a highly successful film adapted from their popular theme park attraction. While it was still an adaptation of another work, at the very least it was their own.

But soon after, they diluted that originality by forcing off kilter sequels down the public’s throat.

This seems to be a common theme of Disney’s. And yes, I understand that it is a business, but once upon a time, they were at the forefront of creativity in the industry.

Now, the studios have not wiped their own fingerprint off of their entire catalogue of work just yet. Amongst the Pixar sequels and adaptations of proven successful enterprises (their upcoming tent pole films Oz: The Great and Powerful and The Lone Ranger come to mind) there have been some original content sprinkled here and there.

Their animation department has been able to produce some quality films over the last decade or so, in both the traditional and CGI styles. Movies like Tangled, Bolt and The Princess and the Frog were at ground level, modest hits.

Even their most recent release, Wreck-It Ralph looked to be heavily dependent on established game franchises, but luckily that turned out to not be the case.

However, looking at the rest of the company, how long are we going to have to wait to see a live action film that’s not based on a comic book or video game? Will their own animated films ever be able to compete with the likes of Pixar ever again?

How much longer will it be before we get another Haunted Mansion, or Tiki Room at one of the parks, attractions that were based on nothing more than the ideas of Walt himself?

Disney is shying away from the kind of projects that made it successful in the first place. The studio that once brought us the first fully animated feature film, the first sound cartoon, the first theme park and the first animated feature ever nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars is opting to let other minds do their creative work.

While even I start salivating at the new possibilities of all of these acquisitions (like an animated Indiana Jones movie? Umm, yes), I still believe that Disney has the ability to churn out its own amazing material, at least equal to the likes of anything George Lucas or James Cameron have come up with.

They can buy up all of the franchises they want, but the bottom line is that the best name Disney has going for it is its own.

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